Forum: Youth should prepare themselves to shoulder the burden of caregiving

Growing up as the youngest in the family who always received care, the idea of being the caregiver for my loved ones always seemed distant. Yet, as I step into my early 20s, the ailing health of my grandparents and parents reminds me of my future duty of care to them. 

Early in 2022, I was my grandmother’s caregiver as she battled Covid-19. It was only for a few days, and the caregiving tasks were not complex. But the worry and fear I experienced over her condition were crushing. I felt guilty the longer she remained sick, and questioned constantly if I was giving her sufficient care. I felt incapable of giving her the best possible care. 

These negative feelings stayed with me for the few days my grandmother was ill. How do full-time caregivers cope with these feelings and responsibilities every day?

In August 2022, the National Council of Social Service released the results of a large-scale study on factors affecting caregivers’ quality of life and their needs (Having help boosts caregivers’ quality of life, but many not seeking support: Study, Aug 19, 2022). It revealed that about half of them struggle with caregiver responsibilities and a perceived loss of control over their lives. While the quality of life improved for caregivers who received help, almost half of them were caregiving alone due to a lack of available help. Most did not engage caregiver services, often citing cost or a lack of such services as reasons.

Given this bleak situation, I am grateful for the recent roll-out of initiatives that support caregivers: from the launch of the Win Caregivers Network, to the increase in the Home Caregiving Grant and other ground-up initiatives like caregiver hotlines. Holistic support of caregivers is critical.

With the present reality of Singapore’s rapidly ageing population and shrinking family sizes, it is clear that the future burden of caregiving will fall on young adults. Yet, most of us remain blissfully apathetic, thinking it too far removed from the present. 

Caregiving responsibilities often come without warning. The current initiatives to support caregivers will shape our future experiences in caregiving, and ultimately the quality of care rendered. As future caregivers, we must be aware of and support these efforts, and should offer our assistance to the caregivers we know. 

Caring for caregivers today extends that care to our future selves.

Janice Ng Wan Zhen

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